A new wave of interactive toys wants to make playtime more personal than ever.
In partnership with Mattel, San Francisco-based ToyTalk has released, an Internet-connected doll that can have a conversation.
Hello Barbie processes speech in a similar manner to a virtual assistant like Siri or Cortana. Press and hold the button on Barbie's belt buckle to begin conversing with the doll -- a bit like interacting with a walkie-talkie. The time taken between releasing the button; running through the natural language processing and artificial intelligence engine on ToyTalk's servers; then delivering an answer can be in the order of 100 milliseconds.
In time, Barbie can also learn details about the child (or adult), such as a favorite color, fruit or dessert.
More than half a dozen writers have crafted thousands of lines of dialogue, resulting in "hundreds of millions" of possible conversations, according to Oren Jacob, CEO and founder of ToyTalk. And if Barbie gets out of her depth, she can handle that too. Jacob said that if people ask about the world economy or the current value of the Euro or some such thing, "Barbie moves the conversation back to things she can talk about."
Also expected to be released in December 2015 is the CogniToys Dino, which uses the artificial intelligence of IBM's Watson to improve interactions and conversations with children.
As with any Internet-connected device, privacy concerns surround interactive toys.
Earlier this year, the toy My Friend Cayla attracted attention when a security researcher hacked the doll so it could swear.